The Ship

SAS President Kruger was launched at the Clyde shipyard of Yarrow and Company.

Launch of the PK, on 20th October 1960

Under the terms of the 1955 Simonstown Agreement, South Africa undertook a 42 Million Rand expansion programme.

As a consequence, three new modified Type 12M Frigates were ordered in 1957.The Rothesay Class, or Type 12M was designed for anti-submarine operations, and therefore required high speed and maneuverability, reduced noise and superb handling.

The design and layout of the type was therefore geared towards this anti-submarine role, and specific features included the high forecastle. The result was to create a ship that was able to sustain adequate speed in almost any sea, and became known as fast, dry comfortable vessels. This hull design became the standard for British naval development for thirty years.

The SAS ‘PK’ enters Simonstown for the first time on 28th March 1963 to a huge welcome.

The equipment and profile of the three frigates changed over the years as the SA Navy’s modernisation programme kept pace.

Image – Cape Times

In this image taken in 1963 during an exercise with HMS Alliance the two limbo mortar installations can be seen. Note also the design and components of the two masts.Of interest is the fact that HMS Alliance can be seen as the core exhibit at the Royal Navy’s Submarine Museum in Gosport.

Image – SA Navy

In this image, taken in the early 1970’s, the forward Limbo mortar has been removed to make way for the helicopter platform, and the two masts have undergone major alterations to accommodate the radar and communications equipment.

SAS President Kruger (F150) and SAS President Steyn in the early 1970’s

 In the early 1970’s the frigates were at their peak, but they were now to enter their final years.

For over two decades the frigates patrolled South Africa’s maritime border, took part in operations off Angola and conducted good-will visits to Argentina in 1967, Australia in 1968 and New York. 

In 1971, SAS President Kruger escorted the first Daphne submarine SAS Maria van Riebeeck (which was renamed SAS Spear in 1999) from Toulon, and SAS President Steyn made two voyages to France to escort the SAS Emily Hobhouse (which was renamed SAS Umkhonto in 1999) and SAS Johanna van der Merwe (which was renamed SAS Assegaai in 1999).

 SAS President Steyn was decommissioned 1980 and served as an accommodation ship. She became a sad sight as she rusted quietly alongside in Simon’s Town, and ended her days as a target ship, to be sunk some ten years later.

SAS President Pretorius was decommissioned in July 1985 and seven years later made her final journey under tow to a breaker’s yard.

In 1982 SAS President Kruger was lost at sea, along with 16 of her crew.

 A total of 12 Rothesay class ships were constructed and used by the Royal Navy, the Royal New Zealand Navy and the South African Navy.

HMS Plymouth doing what these ships did best.

The last Rothesay class ship, HMS Plymouth was scrapped in 2014 but not without some controversy.

HMS Rothesay and HMS Plymouth served until 1988, with HMS Plymouth playing a very active role in the Falklands War.

In fact, the surrender of Argentine Forces in South Georgia was signed in Plymouth‘s wardroom by Lieutenant commander Alfredo Astiz.

Specification when constructed

Displacement:2,150 tons / 2,560 tons full load
Length:370 ft o/a (113 m)
Beam:41 feet (12 m)
Draught:17.3 ft (5.3 m)
Propulsion:Y-100 plant; 2 x Babcock and Wilcox boilers, 2 English Electric steam turbines, 30,000 shp on 2 shafts
Speed:30 knots (56 km/h)
Range:400 tons oil fuel; 5,200 nautical miles (9,630 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Sensors and
processing systems:
Radar Type 293Q target indication
Radar Type 277Q height finding
Radar Type 275 fire control on director Mark 6M
Radar Type 974 navigation
Type 1010 Cossor Mark 10 IFF
Sonar Type 174 search
Sonar Type 162 target classification
Sonar Type 170 attack
Armament: 1 x twin 4.5 inch Mark 6 gun
1 x 40 mm Bofors gun Mark 7
2 x Limbo A/S mortar Mark 10
12 x 21-in A/S torpedo tubes (removed or never shipped)

The modernisation included removing the Limbo mortar to form the flight deck, installing a hangar and resources for the operation of a Westland Wasp helicopter, and the replacement of air search radar and fire control systems among other systems.